Electric Light Orchestra (The), (No Answer)

The stench of amateurism is all over this album, from the infamous snafu with its title (even the U.S.-domestic Epic CD release still perpetuates the ambiguity) to indecision over the use of the definite article, and that extends to the music, featuring such tracks as a baroquely muddled tone poem on the largest battle ever fought on the British Islands ("The Battle of Marston Moor (July 2nd 1644)") and a jazzy guitar bit that's as good as it is because it rips off "Classical Gas" nearly completely ("First Movement (Jumping Biz)"). You can't even blame this on the usual irregularities one sees with débuts because all three players were the final line-up of The Move, by then almost seven years old. And yet. While there's a lot that's pompous ("Manhattan Rumble (49th Street Massacre)") and a lot that's nutty ("Look At Me Now"), and enough parenthesised subtitles to give a typesetter a stroke (ahem), there are also some earnest moments ("Whisper In The Night" and "Nellie Takes Her Bow"), some undeniable charm and even some genuine genius. Not just "10538 Overture" — though it's an outstanding serving of orchestral prog and unquestionably the best track of the first half — but also the rich "Queen Of The Hours" and most of all the plaintive "Mr. Radio," a delightfully mournful treat that became the obvious template for all of Jeff Lynne's future work. This album is not a classic, but some of it is, so some of it will do. The Epic CD reissue adds the usual undeveloped in-progress tracks of little listening value and the Harvest 40th anniversary reissue doubles down on the same for no discernible difference. (Content: no concerns.)